A Small Kid Who’s Realizing Big Dreams
If you ask Adora Svitak what she wants to be when she grows up, you’ll get answers typical of young kids with big dreams—she wants to be a writer, she wants to be a
leader. Oh, and, she would also like to help put an end to
world hunger. The only difference between Adora and kids
with similar aspirations is that, at age 13, Adora is already
realizing her dreams. Well, except for one. She wants to be
U.S. secretary of education. It may seem like a lofty goal,
but she’s well on her way to creating an impressive résumé
that might actually get her there one day.
In February, Adora was awarded the National Education
Association (NEA) Foundation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education. This prestigious U.S. award, which
recognizes a commitment to advancing public education,
has previously been awarded to the likes of U.S. President
Bill Clinton, equity in education advocate Billie Jean King,
and children’s television network Sesame Workshop.
The youngest person ever to receive the award, Adora was
singled out for her commitment to literacy and for inspiring
peers and adults worldwide. “She is not only very gifted, she is
a generous, caring, and effective advocate for education,” said
Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation.
Adora was reading at age 2½ and wrote short stories at
age 4. She published her first book at age 7. That book,
Flying Fingers: Master the Tools of Learning through the Joy of
Writing, is a collection of adventure stories that includes
tips on teaching kids to write. Her second book, Dancing
Fingers, is a book of poetry and writing inspiration that she
cowrote with her older sister Adrianna.
An advocate for educational technology, Adora got her
first laptop at age 6, and that sparked her writing career.
“Technology has certainly allowed me to reach greater
heights,” she says.
She uses a computer for all her class work because she
attends an online school, the Washington Virtual Academy
in Washington state.
“Kids who have access to the Internet have access to
learning and 24/7 education. They are not restricted to an
hour of class time per subject,” she said. “Like education,
technology has the potential to become a great democra-
tizer, not a divider.”
Adora uses technology to record videos, chat with
friends, e-mail, and tweet. And she uses videoconferencing
technology to present to students all over the United States.
She’s reached more than 400 classrooms on topics related
to literacy, writing, and making a difference.
She has shared the spotlight with celebrities, such as James
Earl Jones at the National Center for Family Literacy’s annual convention, and was a Youth Ambassador for both Save
the Children and the United Nation’s World Food Program.
Perhaps her most famous presentation to date was her
TED2010 talk “What Adults Can Learn from Kids.” A
diminutive figure on the giant stage, Adora wowed the
audience with her charm, energetic personality, humorous quips, and gentle chiding of grownups. She comes
off like a friendly and tolerant representative of an oft-misunderstood class of humans—kids—telling the adult
crowd something that should be obvious but isn’t: Adults
should learn and take into consideration the wishes of the
“The way progress happens is that new generations and
new eras grow and develop and become better than the
previous ones,” she said. “It’s the reason we’re not in the
Dark Ages anymore. No matter your position in life, it is
imperative to create opportunities for children so we can
grow up and blow you away!”
In the end, she received a standing ovation.
—Diana Fingal is senior editor of L&L.
Find Adora Online
TED Talk: www.ted.com/talks/adora_svitak.html